Why I HATED The Book Thief

Oh, yes, I’m going to go there, and I don’t care how many people might think I’m as bad as a kitten-killer for stating my honest opinion on this bloated piece of purple prose on par with a D.W. Griffith movie. And please don’t write some impassioned comment trying to get me to Magickally change my mind and suddenly join the crowd squeeing all over this tripe. Not gonna happen.

When this was assigned as the required historical in my YA Lit class, I was excited to finally get to read this book I’d heard so many good things about. And the first few chapters actually flew by quickly. I thought I was going to love the rest of the book and have it done in a few days.

Was I wrong.

Attempting to read this book was like watching paint dry. It moved at a snail’s pace, with no real plot taking shape and nothing of note really happening. A lot of things happened, but they never really accomplished anything. Even a book that’s deliberately slower-paced and more about character development than fast-paced and plot-centric needs to be hung on some kind of arc. I kept waiting for some kind of inciting incident to take shape, some dramatic midway point, and it never happened.

With the exception of Rudy and maybe Hans, none of these characters felt particularly fleshed-out and three-dimensional. They were like a collection of stereotypes and characteristics, rather like how I used to write my own characters. At least my excuse was extreme youth. None of these people ever really came alive for me. I felt absolutely nothing for any of them.

The prose is excessively purple, and not only that, but it’s overwrought and reads like something you’d find in the notebooks of some self-important teen who thinks s/he’s all that. I’ve been there and done that, so I know what I’m talking about. Sometimes it’s not even deliberate, but your youthful prose oozes the message, “Look at me! I’m so much deeper and more creative than my peers! Look at these unique metaphors and similes! Look how uniquely I use language! Everyone praise me as a special little snowflake and misunderstood genius!”

Page after page contains silly examples like “breakfast-colored sun,” “chocolate-colored sky,” “pinecones littered like cookies,” “disfigured figure,” “lacerated windows,” “the sound of a smell,” and “rusty silver eyes.” Seriously, the language is just bizarre. And “nightmare” isn’t a verb, at least not in English.

It’s way too heavy-handed, beating us over the head with all the subtlety of a D.W. Griffith movie and telling us how to think and feel. At least Griffith’s films are entertaining and tell interesting stories, his personal flaws and Victorian preachiness/moralizing aside. With the vile exception of BOAN, I’d gladly watch just about any of his films again.

Unless Rudy were exposed to radioactive material or a dye job went seriously wrong, his hair would not literally be the color of lemons. A human being cannot have lemon-colored hair naturally. Why do so many writers try to creatively describe hair color?

Death as a narrator is a really bad gimmick that doesn’t work.

Native-speaking Germans have said that the vulgar words constantly bandied about are NOT used as anything but vulgar, lowbrow insults in German. They’re not used as cute, charming, funny terms of endearment between spouses, friends, or parents and children. Just picture one of George Carlin’s 7 Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television standing in for those words, and you get the point. Totally obscene and inappropriate.

Way too much telling instead of showing. I think there’s too much emphasis on ONLY showing these days, but this wasn’t the good, necessary kind of telling. It just made the book even more boring and long-winded.

Nice job stereotyping nuns as ruler-wielding, child-beating sadists!

How not to write omniscient POV: Litter the book with constant spoilers and horn into the narrative to give away pivotal plot points, the fates of just about everyone, and the ending, multiple times. Just think of a book whose ending totally tore your heart out because of a character’s unexpected death, or some other kind of tragedy. Now imagine how different it would’ve been had you seen this every 5-10 pages:

****NEWSFLASH!**** In 5 months, Name is going to die in exactly this way! You’ll never see THAT one coming! Heeheehee! Everyone praise my cleverness! Look how avant-garde I am!

God help the people who seriously think this is “brilliant” or “moving” use of “foreshadowing.” Um, I wasn’t aware that the definition of foreshadowing now included outright giving away the ending and pivotal plot developments.

He had over 500 pages and couldn’t even make it to the end of the War! Serious sign this was an unfocused project.

The title makes no sense, as Liesel only steals a few books on and off.

It takes a special talent to make a book set during this era boring.

And this is why I stay far away from books with massive hype.

Advertisements

16 comments on “Why I HATED The Book Thief

  1. Trisha says:

    I really do love your book rants. I read this but to be honest can’t remember much about it now. I think I read it in 2006. Maybe this means it didn’t really make a lasting impression. As it evidently did with you, but for all the wrong reasons. 😉

    Like

  2. Trisha says:

    Oops, I forgot to mention that this made me snigger: “Unless Rudy were exposed to radioactive material or a dye job went seriously wrong, his hair would not literally be the color of lemons.”

    Like

  3. Does that mean he was a Lemonhead?
    Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to read this book anyway.

    Like

  4. Julie Luek says:

    This book is on my to-read list. I’ll be curious to see if I have a similar reaction. I’ve read other books before that received prizes and accolades and had the same kind of disgust reactions. Sometimes I think people confuse different and startling with avant garde and innovative.

    Like

  5. And now I’m glad I haven’t read it. Not going to now, either. Thanks, Carrie, for the warning.

    Like

  6. Morgan Shamy says:

    Haha! Entertaining review, Carrie-Anne!

    Like

  7. This has been sitting on my shelf for a long time and I keep meaning to read it.

    Those examples are hilarious singled out like that.

    Like

  8. Karen Michelle Nutt says:

    You couldn’t have put it better. I went to see the movie and wondered why it was titled Book Thief. Boring, drawn out and with an ending that just darn right sucked. It was a waste of money and time. Wish I would have read this review first. lol

    Like

  9. […] Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.  I freaking HATED this book! Just thinking about the smug, gimmicky narrator with his constant parade of spoilers and obscene […]

    Like

  10. […] 3. The book which shall not be named. Just thinking about this massively overrated book and all the squeeing hype makes me rage. I gag every time I see/hear yet ANOTHER person squeeing all over this gimmicky crap and declaring it as such a moving, tear-jerking book. Nope, more like watching paint dry as I waited for some type of story arc to take shape. Also, I wasn’t aware foreshadowing now involved outright giving away the ending and important developments. Pardon my language, but fuck that gimmicky narrator and his endless parade of smirking spoilers and bizarre language! […]

    Like

  11. Andrew says:

    You make me glad I put that one back on the shelf. I knew I couldn’t do it, though, when I saw that the narrator was Death. I just rolled my eyes and put it back.

    Like

  12. […] If I really hated a book, I may include a point-by-point rundown of why I hated it. […]

    Like

  13. Arielle H. says:

    I have to read this for my eighth grade A.L.A. class, and, I must say, I agree with you completely. The book is soooooo slow, and we’re searching for symbolism, but all it is is the rehashing of white, red, black, and some cliche symbols, like “candles of hope.” We have to annotate every page, and I need to be at page 350 right now, but I’m only on page 150. I can’t do this book. Never again. And the Death being a narrator thing hardly adds anything, and he barely even narrates. It’s also really annoying, all those “newsflashes,” as they just interrupt. I’m glad that this book only has 500 pages. -_-

    Like

  14. AtreidesOne says:

    Spot on. As I’ve heard others say, the only thing stolen is your time.

    Like

  15. […] thoughts on the Five Little Peppers series,” 240 views, published 21 December 2011 “Why I HATED The Book Thief,” 230 views, published 5 August 2013 “A primer on Albanian names,” 210 views, published […]

    Like

Share your thoughts respectfully

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s